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Weinstein brothers finish Marco Polo filming in Kazakhstan

Photo ©Akhat Ibrayev Photo ©Akhat Ibrayev

Filming of Marco Polo TV series produced by Weinstein brothers has finished in Kazakhstan, Tengrinews reports citing the line producer and representative of ADIGUL family films Akhat Ibrayev.

It took 22 days to prepare and film the material for the historical fantasy TV series that will premier on Netflix. In 17 days the filming crew shot scenes in the sand dunes near Woods lake region in Charyn Canyon. The battle scenes were filmed near Aksai village. In Alasa village, the filmmakers recreated an aul (settlement) of Kublai Khan. According to Ibrayev, it took a lot of hard work to finish all preparations for such a large-scale project in just one month.

“The group consisted of 135 foreigners and 400 Kazakhstanis. It was difficult in all aspects: transportation, visa applications and even dealing with different personalities. Logistics among other things was the most difficult part. Especially, if you consider that there were a lot of participants who lived in different hotels. Organizing transportation to different filming locations was not easy. It is a historical project with costumes, decorations and a great number of staff members. Usually, such projects require a year of preparations. We finished the job in one month. Everything worked out in the end,” Ibrayev shared.

Photo ©Akhat Ibrayev

Kazakhstani crew was ready to meet the demands and requirements of their foreign counterparts. But due to translation issues, there were situations when things got lost in translation and had to be explained in gestures.

“We were warned beforehand and we were ready. For example, some people wanted to have coke, strawberries, chocolate and nuts everyday on the set. And mind you, that was in the steppes. In the very beginning we were not physically capable to react to all of the demands. But as we got into swing of things, everything turned out nicely. We do not have enough English speaking members. There were times when someone would come up to me and ask to find three lightning cameramen for the next day. They need them, end of story. We found the professionals and then the filmmakers had to explain everything through gestures,” Ibrayev added.

Kazakhstan was chosen for filming of Marco Polo because of its unusual nature and low costs of filming. The filming company considered a number of other countries such as China and Mongolia. But the former did not have the needed landscape and the later did not have a developed enough infrastructure and highly skilled cinematographers. Visa problems and equipment shipment also contributed to their choice. Kazakhstani government helped arrange visas for the foreign filmmakers and the Almaty Oblast Akimat (Municipal authorities) helped with the filming locations. In addition, over 20 Kazakhstani actors and 10 stuntmen took part in Marco Polo. The Kazakhstani group departed with the filmmakers to Malaysia to finish the project.

Photo ©Akhat Ibrayev

“It started in a flash and finished so fast. Filming was very successful and thanks to weather conditions there were incredibly beautiful sunsets. The filmmakers liked working in our locations a lot. We hope that since the TV series plan to expand into several seasons, they will return to Kazakhstan to film and we would be more than happy to help,” Ibrayev said.

Photo ©Akhat Ibrayev

The TV series produced by Weinstein Company will premier on Netflix. The story takes place in the 13th century China, where a young traveller and writer Marco Polo spends several years. According to Harvey Weinstein, the TV series will be a great mixture of political intrigue, large-scale battle scenes and love stories.

Italian actor Lorenzo Richelmy plays Marco Polo. Benedict Wong (Prometheus), Zhu Zhu (Cloud Atlas), Rick Yune (Olympus Has Fallen), Tom Wu (Skyfall) and Remy Hii (Treading Water) take part in the historical TV series. Kazahstani actors Daulet Abdygaparov (Myn Bala), Erden Telemisov, Dinmukhamed Akhimov and Tolepbergen Baisakalov also participate in Marco Polo.

Harvey Weinstein is the executive producer of the drama along with the creator of the series John Fusco. Dan Minahan (Game of Thrones, True Blood) directed the first two episodes along with Oscar nominated Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki).

Marco Polo will premier in the end of 2014 on Netflix.

Reporting by Vladimir Prokopenko, writing by Gyuzel Kamalova

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